I had arrived at Helsinki Airport early in the morning for an airside presentation about the new seats on the A350 aircraft (see news, August 13).
We had also had a tour of both the non-Schengen Premium lounge, although this was set up for presentations and media interviews, and so is not reviewed here as the service would normally be very different.
We boarded the aircraft from Gate 37D at 1530 for the 1600 departure on AY833, a flight to London Heathrow lasting some two hours and 40 minutes.
There was a short bus ride out to the aircraft, but thankfully the heavy rain shower has passed by and we went up the steps in bright sunshine.
Having shown my boarding card (contained on a pdf on my mobile phone) at the gate, I didn’t have to show it again to board the aircraft, and so quickly found my seat which was 3A in business class.
On this two-class flight the curtain separating economy and business was set after row 8, although obviously this changes depending on the demand for business class seats. Since the only difference in the seats is the blocking out of the middle seat (B or E in ABC – DEF) this is easily achieved.
To view a Finnair seat map for the A321, click here.
The seats are upholstered in grey, and have a storage area for magazines at the top, and a tight netting area for small items below around your knees. There is sufficient leg room – this is consistent throughout the aircraft.
I had flown on this same aircraft in economy the day before and certainly had no complaints about the amount of leg room. If the person in front of you reclines their seat, then it can be difficult to work on a laptop, but that’s the reality of nearly all the new short-haul seating, which is consistent throughout economy and business in terms of seat pitch.
The flight wasn’t quite full and I also had the seat on the aisle free, allowing me to get out without disturbing anyone, which was convenient for retrieving items from my wheel-on bag.
We were quickly boarded from the front steps only and, almost on time, at 1615 the doors shut and we moved away from the stand.
There is no in-built inflight entertainment on the aircraft, but Finnair offers the facility to pay to rent a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 tablet computer loaded with entertainment for the duration of the flight.
I’ve heard that these have a very good battery time, and indeed could last the longest flight segments that these A321 fly — up to five hours — and the return as well, which seems incredible. I’m lucky if I get four hours out of my phone, and my iPad isn’t much better. I suppose with no wifi draining the battery it lasts longer.
There is no charge for this in business class. In economy, the cost is €10. The selection was of a few films and plenty of TV programmes, along with a good selection of music.
The device came in a sleeve, meaning it could be hung from the bac’ of the seat in front — a similar arrangement to the one suggested by BA for its new seats. I’ve seen all the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies, so I played with the menu for a while and then returned it.
Food menus, handmade for Finnair by Jorma Oksanen, had been handed out, with a picture of some origami on the front. The design is impressive, as are the green sleep blankets that a couple of passengers requested – giving a splash of colour to the cabin.
The menu was as follows:
Food and drink
- Lamb pate with Cumberland sauce
- Pan-seared Arctic char in white wine sauce, roasted black salsify and Lappish almond potatoes
- Mandarin Cointreau Mousse.
The main course was created by Pekka Terava, chef and restauranteur from the restaurants Olo and Emo in Helsinki.
The short haul food – it looked a little uninspiring, but tasted lovely.
- Nicholas Feuillatte Brut Grands Reserve
- Domaine du Chateau d’Eau Chardonnay, organic,
- Barton & Guestier Merlot Reserve
Cloudberry Liquer, Cointreau, Baileys Irish Cream, Campari, Underbeg, Calvados Berneroy, Baron Otard VSOP, Glenfiddich, Chivas Regal, Bombay Gin, Finlandia Vodka, Bacardi rum.
The service was good throughout the flight. Rows 6, 7 and 8 in business were all empty, so a couple of passengers moved back there to have even more room or to avoid disturbing anyone behind if they wanted to recline their seat.
The flight passed without incident, with the flight attendants bringing drinks whever asked (they walked up and down and were always there ready to serve).
We landed on time at 1710 and were quickly off the aircraft.
Excellent service, on time arrival and an innovative solution to inflight entertinment, although the €10 charge for economy passenegrs was enough to discourage me from using it on the outward bound journey (when travelling in economy).